Michelin-Star Opheem on the importance of finding the right booking system

With a celebrity chef, unique dining experience and a Michelin star, Opheem had almost everything. It was just missing a booking platform capable of handling high demand. Enter OpenTable.

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Type of restaurant:
Independent Restaurant

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Locations:
Birmingham, UK

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Year founded:
2018

There is no better accolade for restaurants than being awarded a Michelin star. Not only does Opheem have the coveted star, but it’s the only Indian restaurant outside of London to receive one, and it achieved Michelin status within just a year of opening.

Andrew Frost, the General Manager of Opheem and its sister restaurant Pulperia, is aware of the prestige of gaining Michelin recognition so quickly. But he knows the restaurant can’t rest on its laurels. From the menu to how guests are greeted and served, plus the operations side of the business, every aspect of Opheem offers excellence.

That’s also where OpenTable plays a role, helping Andrew and his team take reservations while making life that little bit easier. We spoke to Andrew to learn more about life managing Opheem and Pulperia and how OpenTable features in the restaurant’s operations.

Raising the bar

Andrew is the general manager at Opheem and Pulperia, the sister restaurant that opened its doors in March 2020, when Covid became a serious concern. He acknowledges the unfortunate timing, saying, “We were busy opening the restaurant. We weren’t really watching the news”.

Even with a grand opening to the backdrop of a pandemic, Pulperia has gone from strength to strength. Andrew describes it as a “chef’s restaurant on the finer side of dining with a slightly more casual element”.

It showcases a South American side of cooking, and Andrew is quick to mention the effort that goes into the food. “We look at how that part of the world cooks and uses primal techniques, focusing on ingredients, seasonal cooking and the best cuts of meat from around the world”.

The emphasis on quality is clear, whether at Pulperia or Opheem. And when it comes to the latter, the fine-dining Indian restaurant leads the way: Opheem was awarded a Michelin star within 12 months of opening its doors in 2018.

The concept of celebrity chef Aktar Islam, it takes a modern approach to fine dining with a base on Indian flavours. Aktar has taken inspiration from cooking techniques worldwide to bring a unique experience to Birmingham.

Marketing with a familiar face

Aktar is the chef at Opheem, but he’s also the face of the restaurant. As Andrew puts it, this helps with marketing and allows Opheem to “take an organic approach for getting the restaurant out there.”

“We are really lucky with the profile of Aktar, who has been a Great British Menu winner, featured on Master Chef and regularly appeared in the Michelin Guide.” His background helps Opheem create a reputation of excellence, and it’s working. Currently, the restaurant is booked up well in advance – getting a table is no easy feat.

Still, there is a need for marketing even with such high demand. They do tap into social media to generate more exposure, using Instagram to connect with audiences. Both Andrew and Aktar acknowledge that TikTok is a platform they need to take seriously, even though they’re “both too old to get it”, in his words.

Despite the benefits of having a celebrity chef, Andrew and the team don’t relax, and they know the quality of the food is the most important ingredient for any restaurant’s setup.

“Produce is the most important aspect, as it does much of the marketing for us. If someone comes in and is blown away by the experience, they might go and tell 20 people to eat at Opheem, who then tell 20 more. That reputation-driven approach has worked well for us and is the best form of marketing.”

Offering flexibility with OpenTable

With word-of-mouth marketing acting as the primary driver for business, attention turns to the operational side of Ohpheem. Every restaurant needs a watertight system in place, working alongside the service and the food. When Opheem opened in 2018, it had a chosen restaurant reservation system other than OpenTable.

However, Andrew soon decided to switch, saying, “There are a lot of booking systems out there doing similar stuff, but OpenTable simplifies everything and makes it incredibly easy to use”.

“OpenTable was ideal for what we need at a fine-dining restaurant. The booking system we used previously was static to a server. And in the modern era of restaurants, bookings can change within five minutes, so you need to be able to adapt and see what’s coming in while taking bookings on the fly.”

“OpenTable has a fluidity that allows us to use it in different locations – it gives us flexibility, which is so important in today’s world of restaurants.”

General managers and their teams need to wear many hats. Being able to rely on a booking system without giving it so much as a second thought is essential to operations running smoothly, as it’s one less factor to worry about in the busy day-to-day of restaurants.

For Andrew and his team, OpenTable is second nature.

Making life easier

One of the primary benefits of OpenTable is its user-friendliness, according to Andrew. He notes, “It’s very user friendly. I don’t have to go into the back end to make changes, which I previously did with the other system we used. It ends up being hard work.”

“Under previous systems, there was a strict structure for how bookings came in. But that doesn’t always work, and sometimes we wanted to change things but didn’t have the flexibility. With OpenTable, I can open stuff up, move things around and even contact guests directly.”

Andrew is quick to touch on the importance of the last point. “Using OpenTable to confirm if a guest is coming is a major benefit, especially for diners who don’t necessarily want to be contacted over the phone.”

“It means I can receive a notification on the fly, with a guest confirming their booking. It saves time and allows for more productivity, as someone at the restaurant doesn’t have to sit down and call everyone.”

“We still phone diners who have made a reservation, as we want to offer that personalised service. But giving guests the option to confirm their booking through OpenTable has definitely made life easier.”

One of the other key benefits, he says, is accessibility. “A lot of it comes down to how accessible OpenTable is. I can make sure we’ve all got the app on our phones, meaning anyone in the team can have a quick look and see what they can expect for the evening. Everyone gets a heads-up, from dietary requirements to a special occasion.”

The future of reservations

Andrew is happy with the switch to OpenTable and uses it at both Opheem and Pulperia. He’s also quick to point out that OpenTable is ahead of the curve when it comes to guest interaction. He says, “I was on a panel about a month ago, looking at the future of reservations, and OpenTable was very much involved there.”

“When it comes to fine dining, communication is key to providing excellent service. Getting a booking can be tricky, especially when we’re really busy and the phone’s going off the hook. Having access to OpenTable, either directly on its website or app or through our own site, allows the team to pick up bookings and queries without being rooted to a computer.”

“The staff are always buzzing around with an iPad or little computer, and they can take a booking from anywhere. It’s not like the old days when booking systems were archaic. OpenTable has helped change how people reserve their place at a restaurant, making it easier for the guest and the staff.”

The fine-dining bookings system

The success of Opheem is impressive. It’s booked up until January 2023, and Andrew and his team have crafted an in-demand fine-dining experience that goes beyond Birmingham. While Aktar is the star of the show with his high-quality cooking, OpenTable operates quietly in the background, helping make the staff’s life easier with a fluid and seamless system that is the go-to for fine dining spots.

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